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Posted: June 8, 2013 3:48 p.m.

Keeping safe while on the water

The joys of summer came to a halt recently, as a Conyers man died following a boat crash on Jackson Lake on May 21.

Joseph L. Baker was in a fishing boat with David M. Farmer Jr., of Covington, when their boat collided with another boat, and Farmer was thrown from the boat. Baker made it back to shore but developed medical complications after reaching shore, according to a previous story in The News.

According to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, there were 118 boating accidents and 12 fatalities in 2012, something that will consistently be a threat in all bodies of water, including Jackson Lake and other Newton County areas.

The DNR publishes and makes available online a handbook annually to help limit accidents and keep boaters as safe as possible on the water.

The handbook lists several ways to keep boating enjoyable starting before you even get on the water.

First, it says to never fuel at night unless it’s an emergency, and check all fuel lines, connections and fuel vents, turning off anything that might cause a spark.

While filling the tank, keep the nozzle of the fuel-pump hose in contact with the tank opening to prevent a static spark. Never fill the tank to the brim.

When you’re on the water, the Handbook of Georgia Boating Laws and Responsibilities encourages good seamanship, strong observation powers, maintaining a safe speed and distance, and responsibility to all boaters for taking action to avoid collisions.

"Even though no vessel has the right-of-way over another vessel, there are some rules that every operator should follow when encountering other vessels. It is the responsibility of both operators to take the action needed to avoid a collision."

If caught in severe weather, you should slow down; close all hatches, windows and doors; stow any unnecessary gear; turn on navigation lights; keep bilges free of water and disconnect all electrical equipment if there is lightning.

If you are riding out the storm, the DNR recommends heading the bow into the waves at a 45-degree angle, and if the engine stops, drop a sea anchor on a line off the bow to keep the bow headed into the wind.

In all conditions, to prevent a person from falling overboard, don’t sit on the gunwale, bow, seat backs, motor cover or any other area not designed for seating.

Also, don’t sit on pedestal seats when underway at greater than idle speed, don’t stand up in or lean from the boat and don’t move about when underway.

The DNR’s website has plenty more on safety, including videos and statistics, which can be found at .georgiawildlife.org/boating/safety.

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